Tuesday 3 October 2023

Suella Braverman's Luxury Beliefs

After her first stab at it, how did Suella Braverman's second Tory leadership pitch go at conference? Compared to the Chancellor's 13 minute squeak from the podium yesterday, Braverman thrilled and delighted the assembled throng with the usual strong borders/anti-woke gestures. Except she didn't. While some of the audience applauded her beastly announcements, the camera clearly showed large sections refusing to cheer or clap along her idiocies. And, of course, one Tory member of the London Assembly was escorted out of the hall by Greater Manchester plod for heckling her attacks on LGBTQ refuegees.

There wasn't much in this trash can of a speech we haven't heard before. Indulging her tendency to inflammatory rhetoric, the Home Secretary observed that "the wind of change that carried my own parents across the globe in the 20th century was a mere gust compared to the hurricane that is coming." Calculated to put the frighteners on that permanently terrified section of the Tory electorate, such Powellite posturing wouldn't have gone amiss at a late 70s National Front conference. You can bet the Daily Mail loved it. She talked about immigration being "too high" according to opinion polls, boasted about the reduction of safe routes for refugees and therefore condemning everyone who turns up on these shores as "bogus" asylum seekers ripe for deportation. Labour are the ones to blame for people turning up on the UK's doorstep. The international obligations the country took on under Tony Blair means foreign criminals can't be deported, noting the Human Rights Act should be dubbed the 'Criminal Rights Act'.

We learned that the Tories are offering "strong borders" versus Labour's "no borders", and that Keir Starmer thinks the rights of sexual predators trump those of their victims. More gutter politics. Then Braverman warmed to her theme with the identification of a new enemy. These are "politically correct critics" who have "luxury views". They are wealthy people with villas in Tuscany(?) who want criminals to run around, because they're not the ones who have to live with the consequences of their right-on opinions. Hence "luxury". What's more, not only are these people sheltered by their privilege they like nothing better to sit in their ivory towers and looking down on ordinary Britons, telling them they're morally deficient because they want wrong 'uns locked up and immigration lowered. If Labour win the next election, Starmer will let this woke brigade run riot. If the Conservatives win, this elite can persist in their beliefs but "the taxpayer" won't be paying for them any longer.

Braverman finished off by quoting Shelley (yes, the very same radical firebrand and proto-socialist), and argued the Tories were the "trade union" of the British people. The party was on the side of the majority, "the law-abiding, hard-working, common-sense majority" versus the "woke minority". I wonder what Braverman makes of her majority's seeming determination to cancel the Tories as soon as the next election drops.

Imagine having paid to sit through this drivel. Taking her speech apart, we can see the petit bourgeois class instincts she's trying to tickle. The idiocies about woke elites strikes a chord with the Tory faithful, who are perenially weary of local government and civil service bureaucrats issuing dictats that cost them money. It's a descendent of the anti-expert politics Thatcher herself endorsed and promoted, and fits in with Rishi Sunak's war on the non-existent officials mandating seven bins and meat taxes. None of this is going to get much of a hearing, let alone avert the oblivion that awaits the Tories. Easy to dismiss as the demented ravings of a doomed party, but there are serious issues the Tories are flirting with.

Braverman appreciates plain speaking, so here's some. Her attacks on Labour are beyond the pale. Remembering that Starmer's offering largely accepts Tory framing and does not depart from the status quo in any meaningful way, Braverman's attacks are less criticisms of Labour, but outright fabrications with the express purpose of delegitimising the party as an accepted political actor. This is not a matter of squeamishness or pearl clutching. We know how the Tories' disgusting attacks on refugees and on trans people singles them out for abuse, violent protest, and hate crime. The seeming absurdity of her attacks on Starmer will be taken on by the more unhinged sections of the right, and could result in Labour politicians or volunteers becoming targets. Have the Tories forgot about Jo Cox already?

Looking forward to after the next election, chances are the Tories will respond to their annihilation by heading off to the right to re-consolidate their support. Just like what happened in 1997. Labour will be dominant, and because of the foul taste Boris Johnson, Liz Truss, and Sunak have left in everyone's mouths it's not terribly likely the Tories will benefit from electoral oppostion to Starmer. But the right will seek an outlet somewhere, and just like last time that could realise itself in protest and street movements. The petrol protests of the summer of 2000, and the Countryside Alliance marches of a couple of years later, followed by modest but real electoral successes for the populist and fascist right. However, the right wing street movements of the 2020s are powered by radically politicised conspiracy theories, which too many in the Tories are happy to indulge and/or dog whistle. What characterises these movements is an hysterical, uncompromising othering of its opponents. Government planners, technocratic politicians, even councils that want to encourage shop local initiatives are deeply sinister actors with a not-very-hidden totalitarian agenda. As such, they are not legitimate - a conclusion Braverman's rhetoric alibis.

In short, this speech is an exercise in Braverman's luxury beliefs. The demonisation of, in bourgeois terms, her moderate and unthreatening opponents. Her attacks on trans people and refugees. The indulging of racist tropes, if not racist terms. She confidently believes that her privilege will sheild her from the consequences of her words. And she's probably right. It's others who are going to suffer the violence she is tacitly encouraging.

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Anonymous said...

You are right, this stuff is crazed and dangerous. Can we hope that she is ejected by the voters in the coming landslide?

JN said...

"She confidently believes that her privilege will sheild her from the consequences of her words..."

I'm not sure it will, in the long-term. Braverman is paving the way for someone even more extreme, and (to be blunt) white, who will goose-step right over the distinctions she wants to make between (in her view) deserving and undeserving immigrants, and descendants of immigrants.

Nah, couldn't happen here, right?